PhD project offered by the IMPRS-gBGC in Jan 2023


Complex biogeochemical and biophysical properties of tree- grass coexistence at a Mediterranean savanna ecosystem

Sung Ching Lee , Tarek El-Madany , Stefan Metzger , Markus Reichstein

Project description

Savanna type ecosystems typically consist of scattered trees and a coexisting continuous grass layer. The dual vegetation layers can have contrast responses to environmental conditions and distinct interactions with the atmosphere. Globally, they greatly contribute to inter-annual variability of carbon and water fluxes. Regionally, coexisted vegetation layers can introduce different biophysical impacts by variations in surface albedo, available energy partitioning, and aerodynamic roughness. Current remote sensing products and modelling do not sufficiently represent their complex heterogeneous features. Moreover, these ecosystems are usually exposed to different fertilization management, high hydroclimatic variability, and synoptic-scale weather event that further complicate energy, carbon and water exchanges.

Project summary

The PhD project will focus on assessing biophysical and biogeochemical responses of tree and grass layers of a savanna ecosystem to management and disturbances using existing diverse and long-term dataset. Specifically, the PhD will:
  1. Investigate biophysical properties (e.g., albedo, surface temperature) of tree and grass layers experiencing different nutrient levels.
  2. Assess biogeochemical fluxes, resource use efficiency and carbon-water decoupling of two vegetation layers under various environmental conditions.
  3. Combine eddy covariance data from different scales with remote sensing to obtain vegetation-specific parameters and larger-scale carbon and energy flux data.

Working group & planned collaboration

The candidate will be based in the Eco-Meteorology group in the MPI-BGC Biogeochemical Integration department, and will have chance to closely work with collaborators in United States, Spain, Italy, Austria, and Portugal.

Requirements for the PhD project are

Applications are open to highly motivated and independent students from any country who:
  • Hold a Master's degree in geography, environmental science, or related
  • Are experienced in eddy covariance, remote sensing and programming (R/Matlab/others)
  • Have excellent oral and written English language skills
The Max Planck Society seeks to increase the number of women in those areas where they are underrepresented and therefore explicitly encourages women to apply. The Max Planck Society is committed to increasing the number of individuals with disabilities in its workforce and therefore encourages applications from such qualified individuals.

Left: Rotating radiation and flux towers at the study area (photo credit: CEAM); Middle: The study site in spring; Right: The study site in summer.
Left: Rotating radiation and flux towers at the study area (photo credit: CEAM); Middle: The study site in spring; Right: The study site in summer.

>> more information about the IMPRS-gBGC + application